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Merck cease development of $425 million COVID-19 treatment

Published on 16/04/21 at 10:51am
Merck building
Image credit: MAXSHOT.PL/Shutterstock

Merck (MSD) have ended the development of their MK-7110 drug for the treatment of hospitalised patients with COVID-19.

The news comes after Merck chose to buy out biopharmaceutical company Oncolmmune in December last year in order to acquire the treatment, in a deal that was worth $425 million upfront.

The decision has been made after the FDA informed the pharmaceutical company that additional data beyond Oncolmmune’s own study would be required for an Emergency Use Authorization application. This would have made MK-7110 unavailable until the first half of next year, due to the clinical trials and manufacturing yet to take place.

Merck has chosen to refocus its efforts on advancing its molnupiravir treatment, and producing Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, citing technical, clinical and regulatory uncertainties around its MK-7110 treatment, the availability of a number of medicines for patients hospitalised with COVID-19, and the need to concentrate their resources on accelerating the development and manufacture of the most viable therapeutics and vaccines.

The move will nonetheless come as a disappointment, after the company’s two COVID-19 vaccine candidates were previously pulled in January after poor results in Phase I trials.

Dr Roy Baynes, Senior Vice President, Head of Global Clinical Development, and Chief Medical Officer of Merck Research Laboratories, said: “Merck’s commitment from the outset of the pandemic has been to deploy our expertise and capabilities where they can have the most impact.

“Merck is now focusing its efforts on advancing molnupiravir, which, as an oral medicine for outpatient use, represents a promising potential new approach, and on accelerating production of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine.”

Following on from positive results of a Phase II/III trial in molnupiravir, Merck announced yesterday that they were continuing with Phase III Part 2 of their MOVe-OUT study, in outpatients with COVID-19.

Jack Goddard

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